It’s Thursday and the Rangers are in town, and from what I saw last season they sure played a heck of a World Series! Oh wait. Wrong Rangers. The New York Rangers hockey club has made a trip down South to engage the Hurricanes in the third of four meetings for the year. The Blue Shirts are sitting comfortably atop the Eastern Conference at 40-15-6 with a healthy 86 points while the Hurricanes are 24-26-13 with 61 points. I am very happy however to say that we are in 13th place! Yes I do seem a bit overexcited about that, but it’s an improvement over 15th! The Hurricanes continue the fifth game of a home stand coming off a solid performance in a 4-3 regulation win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. New York comes in flying high after a 2-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
The Blue Shirts’ leader in points is Marian Gaborik at 52 with 29 goals and 24 helpers. If Gaborik’s name rings a bell, you may have seen him collect a hat trick, assist and the MVP award at the 2012 All-Star game all while facing his own teammate and keeper Henrik Lundqvist. Scoring is also usually led by Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan, but the 25 goal scorer will be sitting out tonight with a bruised foot. There are plenty of others willing to pick up the slack so look for Brad Richards to try and augment his 18 goals and 24 assists this evening. I am still not used to seeing him a Rangers’ sweater.
What do the Canes have up their sleeve? We have a Staal. Eric Staal. The captain has extended his point streak to nine games with 7 goals and 9 helpers, with three of those points being picked up on Tuesday. Our fearless leader tops the stat sheet with 19 goals, 35 assists and 54 points. 35 assists. That’s worth saying twice. Also look for the Canes’ powerful offensive scoring machine, Bryan Allen, to light the lamp. Ok not really. But it is great fun to tell you that he scored his first goal as a Hurricane, a game winner at that, during the tilt with Nashville.
The Rangers are packing a Staal of their own with Eric’s brother and defenseman, Marc, making his first appearance in the RBC Center since he was injured with a concussion on a hit from big brother. He shared some thoughts about the matchup after Rangers’ practice on Wednesday morning. While Eric was booed in Madison Square Garden every time he touched the puck, I can assure you that Caniacs are happy to see Marc healthy and back in the lineup.
In other health news, the Canes are still short Brian Boucher, Joni Pitkanen, Tuomo Ruutu, Chad LaRose and Patrick Dwyer. Drayson Bowman, Jerome Samson and Zach Boychuk remain in Raleigh on their call ups from the Checkers. Coach Kirk Muller has been doing some shifting with lines as warranted in games but the current depth chart is here. In addition to Ryan Callahan, the Blue Shirts are short defenseman Michael Sauer who is on injured reserve with a concussion. We may even see recently acquired former Blackhawk John Scott in the lineup.
Keys to the game?
- The Rangers are good. Really good. We need to continue to play the solid fundamental hockey we have been playing the last month.
- The Rangers are big. Really big. We’d be much obliged if John Scott (6’8”), Mike Rupp (6’5”), Brian Boyle (6’7”) and the other big fellas could keep from breaking any of our players.
- Stop the Weasel! Ok that’s not really a key to the game. I am just not fond of Brandon Dubinksy and would like to see him shut down. If our pest is injured, I don’t want to deal with theirs!
This will be the first time I have seen the Blue Shirts in Raleigh since their stint on HBO’s 24/7 giving me a little different perspective on the game. But when it’s all said and done, it’s still hockey! Puck drops at 7pm, but the game is not televised locally in the Raleigh area. You can of course listen to Chuck Kaiton call the game on 99.9 the Fan.
To learn more about the boys from New York City check out our sister site Blue Line Station.
Have any comments on tonight’s contest? The All -Staal matchup? Leave us a comment! You can find us on Facebook at CardiacCane or come chat with us on Twitter: @Esbee92, @CardiacCaneFS, @peacelovepuck, @caniac176 and @CaniacCaz.